Sunday, April 26, 2009
Leadership Via Fist Bumps
Throughout the course of the season, Travis Outlaw and I have developed somewhat of a postgame routine. After I get done bouncing from locker to locker collecting video or audio from various players and coaches, I stand in front of Travis’ stall with a copy of the final box score as he asks me questions about his statistics or those of the player he spent the bulk of the night guarding.
“How many rebounds I get?”
“What percentage did I shoot from three?”
“They give that steal to me or LA?”
Usually I’ll make Travis guess first before telling him the answer. Then, depending on his satisfaction with the answer, he’ll explain why he had a hard go of it or boast a little about his accomplishment. I usually follow up with a question or two on how he felt about his performance, then I leave him alone so he can get dressed and be on his way and so I can go about completing my postgame responsibilities.
We started this little back and forth sporadically, but as the season went on, Travis made a habit of calling me over to his locker for our one-on-one recap of the night’s events. So now I make sure to carry around the final box until I have a chance to give sit with Trav and discuss the details. It’s become one of my favorite routines on game nights, right up there with my nightly cup of fresh fruit in the commissary.
These discussions usually take place after games at the Rose Garden due to the fact that I only travel with the team on occasion. Luckily for me, making the playoffs is one of those occasions.
So after last Friday night’s loss, I stood in front of Travis’ stall, sandwiched in the visiting locker room of the Toyota Center between various members of the media, waiting with box score in hand. And sure enough, Travis had a question.
“How many points did Artest score?” asked Outlaw.
I was pretty sure I knew what the answer was without looking at the box, but I decided to do a quick check anyway, just to be certain.
As I was scanning the sheet for the answer to Travis’ question, Brandon Roy, whose locker is next to Outlaw’s on the road, walked over to his stall fresh from the showers. Brandon had heard Travis’ question, and he already knew the answer.
“Nine,” said Roy. “Ron had nine.”
As Roy told Outlaw the news, he put out his hand for a fist bump. The Trail Blazers had lost and Outlaw hadn’t had a good night offensively, but Roy was there to offer his congratulations nonetheless.
I asked Brandon the next day who gave Travis that fist bump: Brandon Roy the friend or Brandon Roy the team leader?
“Both,” said Roy. “Travis, I felt, did a great job. Everybody is concerned with his scoring, but I was proud that he didn’t let that affect his defense. And I had to let him know that. Sometimes that stuff gets lost in what’s going on, but I thought Travis did a great job of stopping Ron Artest. Even though he wasn’t able to play all that well offensively, he did a great job defensively.”
It struck me that Roy could sense Outlaw needed some support. It’s been a hard series for Travis, something he readily admits, and Brandon is smart enough to know that and to know that the team needs Outlaw playing well to have a chance of winning the series. And what’s more, he’s intuitive enough to recognize when someone, be it a friend or a teammate or both, needs some words of encouragement.
Travis has been asking a lot more about his defensive lately. I give him my honest opinion, but sometimes I really don’t know, as I tend to look at the game as a whole rather than the sum of individual parts. But people smarter than I, guys like Roy, are better sources of that information anyway.
“I’m proud of him that he’s mature in understanding that just because Travis isn’t playing great offense doesn’t mean he can’t do anything for this team,” said Roy. “I think guarding Ron Artest the way he did helped us stay in the game. Ron wasn’t able to extend that lead like he normally would be able to. I was extremely proud of how he played defensively and I had to let him know. That’s part of being a friend and a teammate.”
It’s also part of being an emerging superstar.